Apple’s Impossible Bar

About the time I upgraded my iPhone 5 to iOS 8, I was already starting to have concerns about Apple‘s ability to continue to “surprise and delight” its users, especially without a tyrant like Jobs at the helm. My recent experiences in light of that upgrade, and the discovery that my phone is among those affected by the Home/Power button bug, were mildly annoying. It’s when I’ve attempted to get the issues dealt with that things have kind of gone to shit.

What’s Happened to Me

Without delving too deeply into the shit, I’ve gone to two Apple stores locally re: the button issue. The first Genius Bar was helpful but had no Verizon loaner phones and encouraged me to call around. The second I encountered a massive queue (both pre-scheduled and walk-in) that it didn’t fit with my schedule, which is fine, but when I inquired as to whether or not they had Verizon loaner phones, I was met with an interesting mix of indifference and condescencion that left me cold. I walked away and decided to just “deal with a shitty phone.”

With regards to the iOS 8 upgrade, I almost immediately starting having issues with my WiFi connectivity (something that my wife is also dealing with on her new iPhone 5s), and the phone has now decided it doesn’t see the SIM card about 3-4 times per day, and requires a reboot. Restoring the phone hasn’t helped.

This is a phone that was previously (under iOS 7) pretty bulletproof.

The Problem is That I Remember the Past

While I’ve been an Apple user long enough to know the adage about never buying a first-generation Apple product, the problem I’m currently dealing with is this: I remember the golden years (starting around OS X 10.2 “Jaguar”) when things started to “just work” and I didn’t have to fear software upgrades, or worry about hardware shitting the bed at random intervals. Hell, I’m still using an Airport Extreme Base Station from 2004 as my wireless router, and while it needs the occasional reboot and the maintenance tools are outdated, it’s still humming along. My Mac Mini (my only Mac CPU) is the Mid 2007 model, and while I can’t get anything newer than 10.7 on there, it still does the job — for now. I just upgraded from an iPad 1 to a iPad Mini Retina a few months ago, and that’s been a pretty solid switch, to Apple’s credit.

Has Apple set the bar so impossibly high that they can’t even outdo themselves?

The problem is, when I compare my Apple experience with the past products and service, which have largely been amazing experiences, and I look at what Apple’s doing now, I am trying to decide if continuing my relationship with Apple is something I’m likely to do. Certainly, there are others in the same position.

Going Forward

Would I love a new Mac Mini or a new MacBook Air? Hell yes. But I also need to compare the cost with the amount of labor I have to put into it compared to a Windows machine (Linux = too damn much work as much as I’d love to support it). The problem is, I’m largely locked-in. I feel most at-home with the UI, I’ve invested in tons of apps, a large percentage of my music is tied to the iTunes ecosystem, and I’m definitely sticking with their mobile devices for now.

But I feel a strange need to have an exist strategy figured out. I don’t know that they’re going to be able to continue to “surprise and delight” the way they have in the past.

What Now?

I’d love to hear from you guys who have switched or are thinking about it. I’d also love to hear from someone at Apple itself re: how things have been going since Steve shuffled off this mortal coil — is it really the same? Do you feel like more corners are being cut? Is the new relaxed environment helping or hindering quality?